Inside: 5 tips for kids not listening – these easy action items really help.
Stuck in a “repeating yourself” rut? You need these tips.
I’m standing at the front door ready to go and hollering for my kids to come meet me.
No one seems to be moving.
No one seems to be doing what I asked.
No one seems to be listening to me.
I don’t know that anything quite boils our parenting biscuits quite as much as feeling unheard. It makes us feel devalued, invisible, and at a loss for how to lead our family ship when no one seems to hear (or acknowledge) us.
The complaint is always the same, across the whole parenting board:
My child isn’t listening. My kids don’t hear me. My kids ignore me.
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You’re right. They aren’t hearing you and that’s causing them not to listen.
Most likely, they aren’t just “not listening.”
Let’s investigate some tips, tricks, and thoughtful ways to help make sure your message and information is getting to your kids.
After teaching hundreds of kids and now raising 3 of my own, I’ve asked my fair share of kids to listen and acknowledge my words… and I’ve learned somethings along the way.
Here are 5 ways to help get your words to your kids’ ears and end the ‘kids not listening’ struggles:
Tip 1: WHISPER THE DIRECTIONS
Want to perk a child’s interest? Whisper. Kids love whispers. It’s magic: they have to lean in, they have to work a little more to comprehend, they have to stop what they’re doing to truly focus on you.
This helps them catch more of your words. Their interest is peaked and suddenly, “Go wash up for dinner” is an important phrase they don’t want to miss.
Next time you get ready to give directions, whisper them.
TIP 2: GET THEIR ATTENTION FIRST
Sometimes, kids really don’t hear us. They’re deep in art, covered in LEGO, far into a book, and day dreaming away. They don’t hear us.
We interpret this as them being mean to us, ignoring us. That’s not the case. They truly didn’t hear you.
Make sure you have their attention before you start giving direction. Lightly touch their shoulder. Get their eye contact. Sit next to them. Be certain you have them focused on you.
How often has this happened to you as an adult? You’re doing something and suddenly realize someone else is talking to you. “Oh I’m so sorry! I didn’t know you were talking to me.” That’s what we say in adult speak.
Kids don’t know to say that. Instead, we get mad because they had a very human experience that we’ve had happen too.
Check their attention. Don’t start talking until you know they’re ready to listen.
TIP 3: ADD IN SOME WAIT TIME
We’ve been on this earth, with this brain, speaking our primary language, and using all our motor skills for many decades.
Our kids haven’t. They’re new to this world, new to the language, and new to their body.
They need wait time.
Sometimes, kids need a second to process. This might be thinking about your words, what you said, or what you mean.
Sometimes, kids need a second to make a decision. We make decisions fast in adult world. Kids need a moment to take some time and weigh their decision.
Sometimes, kids need a second to be human. When we are asking something of an adult, we give them time to think and process. Let’s give our kids that too.
But how often do we do that for kids? How often do we (instead) start rapid fire statements when they don’t react? “Get your shoes, get your shoes, get your shoes!“
Consider this (a real life moment with my son):
I was ready to leave the house and told my son to get his shoes on.
What I saw next was him standing in the middle of the kitchen, making no moves to his shoes or the door.
Exasperated at his lack of follow through, I said, “Get your shoes! Let’s go!”
“I’m trying to remember where I left them,” he responded back.
Oh…so he wasn’t ‘not listening’ to me. He was thinking about where he’d left his shoes and needed (you guessed it) wait time from me.
Give your kids some wait time. Count to 10 before you repeat the instructions. Ask if they need clarification. Assume the best from them: sometimes, they just need a second.
TIP 4: GET ON THEIR EYE LEVEL
No one likes to be hovered over.
Has this ever happened to you? Someone stands over you and barks orders or directions? It’s uncomfortable, it’s icky, and frankly, it’s just the worst.
Kids feel this too.
It’s intimidating. It doesn’t breed trust.
When you need to talk to your child, give them directions, or tell them something important: get down on their level. Meet their eyes. This makes you (and your words) so much less imposing.
TIP 5: MAKE YOUR WORDS MATTER
Audit your words.
Sometimes, people stop reacting to other people when their words stop mattering. Kids do the same thing.
If you ask your child to clean up the room, but then clean it up yourself – your words didn’t matter. And your child might have picked up on that.
If you tell your child to come back for their things, but then bring the things to them – kids get that message. “My parents words don’t match their actions.”
Are you following through with what you ask? Are your directions and statements matching the boundaries you’ve set into place? Kids notice when our words don’t matter.
Say what you mean and mean what you say.
It really is just a few little twists to make a big difference in ‘kids not listening.’
No one likes repeating themselves – and no one likes being repeated to.
Try these 5 tips and get ready for some magic.
Susie is the creator of Busy Toddler, with over 1.3 million followers on Instagram. She holds a B.A. in Elementary Education, taught Kindergarten and 1st grade, and is currently pursuing a Masters of Education in Early Childhood Education. Susie is the author of the Playing Preschool program and Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting.